News: Mass. court's malpractice decision could have 'dramatic impact'

September 5, 2008

Massachusetts' highest court upheld a ruling that awarded $1 million to the family of a man whose missed diagnosis of stomach cancer resulted in death.

Massachusetts' highest court upheld a ruling that awarded $1 million to the family of a man whose missed diagnosis of stomach cancer resulted in death. According to a report in The Boston Globe, the case represents the first time the state's Supreme Judicial Court recognized what's known in medical malpractice circles as the "loss of chance" doctrine, which attaches a value to a patient's chances of surviving a serious illness. "This is something that has a dramatic impact," Max Borten, who represented the plaintiff's widow, told the Globe. "It takes a whole class of patients that had no rights before and grants them some rights." The events in the case date back to the 1990s, when Kimiyoshi Matsuyama visited the defendant, internist Neil S. Birnbaum, complaining of stomach pain. According to court records, the jury found that Matsuyama had a 37.5 percent chance of survival at the time of his first visit.